I hated camping. My father loved it. He once took us on a three-week excursion from Chicago to the Grand Canyon, stopping each night to pitch a tent so my mom could cook our meals under an open sky. We got to see the majesty of God’s creation all right, but I would have preferred a hotel, indoor plumbing and fast food. I never felt safe sleeping inside a canvass covering and I scream at the sight of bugs. I apologize for exposing these truths to those who love pitching a tent under the stars, but I just have to tell you it’s not my cup of tea. Thankfully, I married a man who thinks “roughing” it is a Holiday Inn with a black and white t.v. Oh, how I love that guy!
Truth is I wasn’t so different from God’s people, the Israelites, when it came to desiring creature comforts! After 400 years of living in Egypt, a place that spiritually represents slavery to sin, God led the Israelites out and into the wilderness warning them to never return to Egypt again. But it didn’t take too many discomforts before His people cried out for the good things of Egypt, seeming to forget their former slavery. They chose not to focus on the staggering beauty of a God who led them through the wilderness with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They didn’t look ahead to the spacious place of freedom He had prepared for them, only back to memories of fuller stomachs. As a result, the journey to the Promised Land was filled with opposition and pain.
In the same way Israel’s memories of Egypt tugged on their hearts, memories of our former lives can have that kind of pull on us, too. At worst, we can return to sin that used to mark our lives. God doesn’t want us to go back to our old “Egypts,” no matter what that former life may hold for us. He warns us to move away from the slavery of sinful habits and ungodly patterns of thinking. He calls us to a land of promise even though the journey may be uncomfortable. He often stretches us to move with Him and to change our address to His campsite. Will we follow Him?
If it’s not the desire to return to the comfort of sin, it might be the comfort of the familiar that gets us stuck in a spiritual wilderness. We won’t open our eyes to the new things He’s trying to show us. Like Israel, we make golden calves out of religious ideas and preferences choosing to worship them instead of our Holy God. He tries to move us nearer to Him and the blessing of His promises, but we stay camped in our spiritual yesterdays, refusing to see how empty life has become. It seems the familiar becomes our comfort zone. Will we move on?
Once upon a time, the word Zebulon invaded my thoughts so strongly that I had to launch a search to discover its meaning. I learned the Hebrew definition of Zebulon is a dwelling place or habitation. That was my call to a deeper place of intimacy with Him. The Lord longs for all of us to become His dwelling place. He does not live in houses and buildings made by human hands but intimately within the human heart. I believe intimacy with Jesus Christ is a key to victorious Kingdom living.
It was the key to enjoying my real life wilderness experience with my father those three weeks when I was 10 years old. Even though there were many aspects to camping that I hated, I loved sitting around the campfire with my daddy. The intimacy we shared as a family fed my heart in a way nothing else did. And in the midst of all my fears, my daddy was there to protect me from the scary bugs and things that went bump in the night. In the same way, God wants us to depend on Him. He wants us to trust in His power and might to help us through the wildernesses of life, instead of turning back to the comfort of sin or seeking refuge in the familiarity of the past.
Where are you camped out spiritually? Are you following Him wherever He leads even though it takes you far out of your comfort zone? Do you remain in Him daily or are you always looking back? Are you abiding in the Vine or abiding in thoughts of the past? The Lord calls us to draw near, but we need to deliberately make Him our Zebulon, our dwelling place. As we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. It’s dual citizenship–I in Him and Him in me!
Another choice. Another deliberate and intentional response to the Spirit’s wooing. Leave your Egypt behind. There’s a campsite of abundance waiting…and intimacy is a key to possessing your promised land. Will you draw near?
(After posting this article, my friend Jill sent me the song, Painting Pictures of Egypt, which I had never heard before. It’s a beautiful confirmation of leaving our Egypts behind. Please click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcIA4Cnj6j4 to listen).